Last month I received an email from a young girl asking for information about how to get a book she’d written published. The following is, in part, what I sent back to her.
Since my weekly blog is primarily about writing and getting published, some of my earlier posts might help you. On the lower right side of my blog you will see a list of recent posts. Click on any that look like they might be of assistance. If you don’t find anything there, at the very top of the right side you’ll see a spot where you can put in a word or words and click on SEARCH.
In addition to my blogs, use a search engine (Google, etc.) and look for articles or posts on publishing.
General Publishing Guidelines
Publishing requirements vary according to the type of story. Is your story fiction or non-fiction? Is it for children, young adults, or adults? If fiction, what is the genre? Romance? Mystery? Scifi? Futuristic? Historical? and so on.
Once you’ve identified the type of book you’ve written, you need to determine how long these books are. (That is, the general word length.) You may find the answer on-line, or you can go to the library and find books that are similar to what you’ve written. Look for ones that were published in the last 2 to 5 years? (That will give you an idea what’s out there now.)
By actually looking at these books, you can discover their word length. (Use the old standby of counting the words on three different pages and dividing the total by 3. That will give you an estimate of words per page. Then multiple that number by the number of pages.) By physically looking at the books, you’ll also see how they are structured. Do they have long paragraphs (lots of narrative) or short? Lots of dialogue? More narrative than dialogue? Long chapters or short? For children’s books, did the writer do the illustrations or did an illustrator do them? (Most publishers like to choose an illustrator.) Do chapters have subtitles or are they simply numbered? Is the story told using one point-of-view or many? First person or third? Present tense or past tense?
In the process of analyzing these published books, you’ll gain a better understanding of what agents and editors have liked in the past and what sold. Most publishing houses want to make money, so they tend to stick with what’s sold well in the past. On the other hand, they don’t want duplicates, so it’s best if your story is similar but different.
You also have to remember your manuscript should be 95% ready to be published when you submit to an agent or publisher. Agents and editors do not want to (and will not) do a lot of line editing. If they like the story, they may help you with content. Therefore, you should always have someone read and edit your manuscript. This person should be capable of finding grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors and also able to tell you if you’ve used a word too many times, repeated information, or included something that doesn’t make sense. (That is, your characters wouldn’t do that or what you’ve written isn’t clear to the reader).
Once you feel you’re ready to submit your manuscript to an agent or editor, go to your public library and ask to look at their most recent copy of The Writer’s Market. (Don’t buy one. They’re too expensive and out-of-date by the time they’re published.) In that you should find the names of agents and/or publishers looking for the type of story you’ve written. Once you have the names of agents and/or editors to whom you might send your story (i.e., it sounds like they take the type of story you’ve written), write down their URL addresses and go on-line and read more about them. On their websites they will tell you exactly how they want you to submit. It might be just a query letter. It might be a synopsis and pages. They may also tell you how they want your manuscript formatted. Make sure you do exactly what they ask.
I wish you the best of luck, and don’t give up if you receive rejections. Some of the best books published received multiple rejections before being published. If you’ve done everything you can to make the story you’ve written the best it can be, then keep submitting until you find the editor who also loves the story and will fight to see it published.